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Editorial: Rethink needed on border travel permit plan

When the British government came up with a plan for some people crossing the border to need electronic permits, the potential pitfalls were glaringly obvious.

The visa-waiver style scheme is part of post-Brexit immigration and border control legislation going through Westminster and would require non-Irish EU citizens living in or visiting the Republic to have electronic travel authorisation (ETA) to cross into Northern Ireland.

While it would not apply to Irish or UK citizens, concerns have been raised by the Irish government, which has asked for the island to be treated as a special case.

Former secretary of state Paul Murphy described the proposal as 'daft and potentially dangerous.'

The British government has defended the plan saying permits would cost around £10, would cover multiple trips and will not involve physical checks on the border.

When asked about the scheme last month, the DUP leader downplayed its impact, insisting it would not damage the tourism sector in Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said if the passes were not required on cross-border travel, then they would be needed for Northern Ireland to Britain travel.

He was speaking after setting out his party's plans to boost the local economy, including an ambition to make tourism here a £2 billion industry.

The idea that tourism in Northern Ireland would not be undermined by this additional red-tape was firmly rejected by leading figures in the industry yesterday.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster was told that most international visitors to the north arrive via Dublin airport and even if they planned a day trip across the border they would need a pass.

Tourism Ireland said tour operators were 'incredulous' when the plan was explained to them while Joanne Stuart from the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance pointed out there had been no consultation on the issue.

John McGrillan, chief executive of Tourism NI, said there was a risk that tour business, which had taken a long time to build up, could be lost.

The concerns of people within the tourism industry need to be taken seriously and acted upon. They are doing their best to persuade visitors to cross the border and now face an additional bureaucratic hurdle that will undoubtedly deter many people from travelling north.

The British government needs to consider the ramifications of this ill-judged scheme and think again.

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